(Editor’s note: Harriet VanDyke, a walking horse enthusiast, owner and exhibitor from Providence Forge, Va., welcomes your stories on the Tennessee Walking Horse underdog, or Cinderella stories of your walking horses. Last year, her “Seabiscuit,” Sunfire Phoenix, carried her to the Three-Year-Old Amateur Park Pleasure Reserve World Championship.

Please send your story ideas to the following e-mail address: [email protected]. Please keep it short and make sure you provide adequate contact information so she can follow up. Her columns will run in The Walking Horse Report. )

By Harriet VanDyke

I will begin this month with a little ‘shame on you.’ The ‘shame on you’ is directed at those of you who constantly whine about what underdogs you are. I talk to many of you on the boards and at the shows. We often discuss how much more fair judging could be if judges knew all of us as well as everyone knows the “Walking Horse Elite.” Whether it was the timing of my first column which hit papers just as most of us were arriving in Shelbyville for the Celebration or whether the Walking Horse Underdogs are just long suffering martyrs, I haven’t quite figured it out. I know from the comments I have heard from many of you that you enjoyed the Underdog column but story ideas from you have been less than forthcoming. I cannot imagine why all of you Underdogs out there would not jump at the chance of the free publicity that David Howard is so graciously offered the working class here. I am trying desperately not to turn this into my own personal east coast crusade so I will begin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I know many of you are saying, “I didn’t even know that there were any Walking Horses in Wisconsin. Of course this comment is not designed to offend you Wisconsinites but let’s face it, from where I am standing, Wisconsin alone almost qualifies you for Underdog status. As I read the information from Lynne Levy about her horse Ideal’s Carbon Copy affectionately known as Boomer. I was quite struck by her description of Boomer. Lynne says, Boomer is a 23 yr old gray roan gelding who was put out to pasture at 5 yrs of age as it was commonly thought that he could do no more in the show ring.

Well let’s think about that description and all of the qualities that qualify him as an underdog. Initially my idea for this column centered around the owner being an underdog; it had not really occurred to me that many horses are underdogs in their own right. Upon further inspection I found that Boomer has held the Wisconsin High point Horse of the Year for an unprecedented 7 times. To this date he is undefeated in Amateur Trail Pleasure English and Western in 2003 and 2004. I thoroughly believe that any horse that successfully competes into his twenties is worthy of our admiration even without all of his other impressive credentials.

Okay, I know that I have lost a few of you who saw the words “Trail Pleasure” and drifted off. I know, you show padded horses but the point you are missing is that before purchasing Boomer, Lynne and Gary Levy were the proud owners of AQHAs, ASBs, Arabs, and have shown dressage as well as hunters. I have been trying to stress the importance of all of the facets of our wonderful breed. Most new converts are not going to go from owning and showing AQHAs to owning and showing padded Walking Horses. Boomer is another horse who brought much needed “new blood” into the fold.

Gary and Lynne Levy are underdogs in their own right. Lynne is an Ophthalmology Tech who works full time. She also plays the violin and viola in a local orchestra in her ‘spare time.’ I know that most horse owners snicker when we hear the words ‘spare time.’ Gary is toolmaker. He is also an avid photographer when he is not working, You never know, some of the photographs of your horse that you have seen in various places may have been taken by Gary. The Levys have been married for 24 years. So today I salute a horse named Ideal’s Carbon Copy a.k.a. Boomer- a gray, 23 year old gelding, who has an impeccable record of winning. I also salute his owners Lynne and Gary Levy who dared to dream an Underdog’s dream. 

Please send story ideas to [email protected]